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FinTech in Focus—May 23: Global Conference FinTech Recap

FinTech in Focus — May 23, 2023
Global Conference FinTech Recap

In This Newsletter

The FinTech Movement: Social Economic Mobility Strategies
Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 1: A Conversation with Rostin Behnam
Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 2: Digital Assets: From Creative Disruption to Market Adoption
FinTech Media and Interviews at Global Conference
Welcoming Mo and Colin to the FinTech Advisory Council
Women in Digital Assets Forum

The FinTech Movement: Social Economic Mobility Strategies

Nicole Valentine led the conversation “The FinTech Movement: Social Economic Mobility Strategies” about the push to democratize finance and expand access to financial services and capital through technology.

John Hope Bryant, founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE, spoke about his advocacy work on financial literacy as a civil right, his work on the 1 Million Black Business Initiative, and the systemic issues that have limited the financial freedom of Black America. He also highlighted Mike Milken’s role in underwriting Reginald Lewis, the first Black American to build a billion-dollar company.

Jay Brown, co-founder and vice chairman of Roc Nation and partner at Marcy Venture Partners, focused his comments on his experiences working with creators of color in the music industry and in their co-ventures. He talked about the need to better understand financial planning and the importance of mentorship, even among financially successful people. He also discussed the need to build systemic inclusion in enterprises, citing Rihanna’s 50-shade cosmetics collection at Fenty.

Wemimo Abbey, co-founder and co-CEO of Esusu, then shared his immigrant story of coming to the US as a person with no credit history and how that experience informed his company. Esusu allows renters to build their credit scores through regular rent payments and harnesses alternative data. One of FinTech’s unicorns, Esusu recently signed a partnership with the Los Angeles Football Club with the goal of strengthening financial identities for thousands of Angelenos, helping them achieve greater financial success and stability.

Tingting Peng, chief capital, strategy, and impact officer for Moove, spoke about the need to create ownership pathways in unconventional places, such as using her startup’s program to extend credit to gig workers with previously underused data. Peng shared that many rideshare drivers are immigrants, credit invisible, underbanked, and in need of financial services that meet them where they are.

Shivani Siryoa, CEO and founder of Tala, spoke about the need for a more holistic multidisciplinary approach that uses new data to bring diverse communities into the financial system, especially in emerging economies. She talked about the many individuals around the world outside of traditional financial institutions and the ways that tech-forward solutions can build agency and close the wealth gap.

Yoni Assia, co-founder and CEO of eToro, shared how social networks can advance financial literacy. He discussed how platforms like “FinTwitter” could broaden access to financial services. Forbes reports that Twitter partnered with eToro this April to offer research and investment trading facility as part of Elon Musk’s aspirations to turn Twitter into an “everything” app.

Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 1: A Conversation with Rostin Behnam

Mike Piwowar moderated a two-part session about the regulatory and market challenges facing the digital assets industry. In the first part of the conversation, “Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 1: A Conversation with Rostin Behnam,” Piwowar and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Rostin Behnam discussed the role of the CFTC in American digital asset markets. Behnam shared how many digital assets meet the definition of commodities and how the CFTC would need explicit legislative authority to regulate crypto spot markets.

Under current rules, the CFTC has limited tools to monitor crypto spot markets in real time. Behnam discussed how the CFTC already has some authority over crypto spot markets in cases of fraud. He emphasized that the commission does not currently have investigative authority over crypto spot markets but instead needs fraud complaints to be filed in order to act. As of April, the CFTC has brought 73 cases against fraudulent actors in digital asset spot and crypto markets.

However, today he is seeing that larger jurisdictions like the EU and UK are further along in their frameworks and, in some cases, much further ahead of the US. He observed that smaller island countries were motivated to move first in crypto regulation to attract investment. He underscored that the US needs to be cautious and deliberate in its digital assets policy.

Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 2: Digital Assets: From Creative Disruption to Market Adoption

The conversation with Behnam was followed by “Moving Digital Assets Forward | Part 2: Digital Assets: From Creative Disruption to Market Adoption,” also moderated by Piwowar. The discussion featured the perspectives of industry leaders and regulators on the current state of the digital assets ecosystem and what steps are needed for the space to live up to its promise.

Dave Siemer, co-founder and CEO of Wave Digital Assets, contextualized the progress of crypto adoption. He cited the use of crypto in emerging economies where layer-one blockchains like Cardano enable leapfrogging over traditional financial institutions. He characterized the recent crypto crisis as a function of bad fiduciaries and an extraordinary stress test of what has proven to be a resilient digital ecosystem.

Matt Halstead, director of real estate investments and digital assets at the Teacher’s Retirement System of Texas, shared his views on the unique potential of digital assets as an emerging asset class. He discussed how tokenization could enable new investors to participate in alternative assets like intangibles, identity, and intellectual property.

Addressing institutional adoption and regulation, Faryar Shirzad, chief policy officer for Coinbase, described the current volatile digital-asset marketplace as a product of retail-dominated markets. He suggested that institutional adoption and regulatory clarity would bring order, faster pricing, and deeper capital resources to the digital asset ecosystem. Shirzad also discussed the regulatory regimes that are crystalizing in large international jurisdictions like the EU.

CFTC Commissioner Caroline Pham added her perspective as a regulator. She shared some of the points established in her “Ten Fundamentals for Responsible Digital Asset Markets,” including how she approaches definitional questions and the role of existing frameworks as well as the potential nonfinancial applications of blockchain to Web3.

FinTech Media and Interviews at Global Conference

“We have an issue right now with broadband access,” Nicole Valentine told Fox Business in the interview “What does the US need to gain the AI ‘edge’ over China?” speaking about the infrastructural gaps in broadband technology that are holding communities back from embracing the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. New AI tools like ChatGPT require stable internet connections that 19 million Americans lack, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission report.

In an interview with Yahoo News, Valentine commented on how the FinTech industry will persevere through a challenging macroenvironment. “FinTech isn’t scared of a crisis,” she said. “A crisis for FinTech is just another opportunity to figure out what’s next. How are they going to reach their customers? How are they going to deliver value?” Speaking about the fusion of FinTech and emerging technology, she said, “FinTech is always building on top of new technology … so when we talk about generative AI, [when] we talk about blockchain, that’s how FinTech keeps moving through cycles. It doesn’t stop the builders.”

Welcoming Mo and Colin to the FinTech Advisory Council

The FinTech Program is proud to welcome two members to our FinTech Advisory Council, Mo Shaikh and Colin Jones.

Mo Shaikh is the co-founder and CEO of Aptos Labs. Aptos is a layer-one blockchain that aims to provide a fundamental building block to bring Web3 to mass adoption. The blockchain is designed with scalability, safety, reliability, and upgradeability as key principles. It offers new and novel innovations in consensus, smart contract design, system security, performance, and decentralization.

Colin Jones is head of strategic investments at Horizen Labs and founder, CEO, and chief investment officer of Outerlands Capital. Horizen Labs is an enterprise blockchain technology company that provides the tools to build blockchains and applications for real-world use cases with privacy options, low transaction fees, and configurable revenue models.

Women in Digital Assets Forum

This June, Maxwell DeGregorio will moderate a panel at the 2023 Women in Digital Assets Forum, co-hosted by Transformational Strategies and the TabbFORUM. He will moderate a lineup of market and policy professionals on the digital asset regulation panel with insights from Vanessa Williams from Coinbase Asset Management, Julie Stitzel from Digital Currency Group, Vanessa Kargenian from Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, and Lindsay Danas Cohen from Nillion. The event will take place on June 6 in Stamford, Connecticut. Register and see the full lineup of speakers.